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Saturday, 30 May 2020

Should We Support a Third Position? A Reply to Richard Spencer and Keith Woods

by Martin Dabney



Basic Argument of Third Positionists


In a year when the United States could fall back into the hands of the Democratic Party, Richard Spencer, Keith Woods, and other dissident voices are looking to the left for answers. As they see it, Trump has floundered on tech censorship, immigration, crony capitalism, and isolationist foreign policy, so perhaps whites would be better served by the debt-forgiving, UBI-promising, wage-increasing democratic socialists and center-leftists of the Democratic Party, especially when the only real alternative, the GOP, has been little more than a cheerleader for empty consumerism, civic nationalism, and globalism, and stands to be demographically blocked from power in the near future anyway.

Similarly, maybe the radical left has valuable insights into modernity that have been overlooked by the right. Maybe Marxists have been correct about absurdly powerful corporations and the crushing effects of hedonistic bourgeois nihilism on the human spirit. Maybe the Marxist goal of a revolution that runs roughshod over these societal ills is compatible with the alt-right dictum to “revolt against the modern world.” And maybe acknowledging these insights and actions need not entail a capitulation to the full Marxist program of egalitarianism and statelessness. To paraphrase Cultured Thug in a conversation with Keith Woods, right-wing values like hierarchy, meritocracy, and demographic realities would still be asserted by the third position, hence the label. What matters most is the channeling of radical energies toward systemic change. “Make it new,” Ezra Pound said. New the current alt-right is not.

Indeed, none of this would be necessary, the third positionists claim, if it were not for the supposed dead end reached by the dissident right in its conventional articulations of white identity. For example, a romanticized return to Christianity rings hollow in a world in which it is partly to blame for the current predicament. Its believers are compelled, in varying degrees, to turn the other cheek, convert nonbelievers, and unite the world under Christ. When the bulk of young Christians in America are ethnic minorities, it’s not an accident or a conspiracy. Immigration is only a proximate cause; ultimately, cross-cultural appeals of universal brotherhood have been baked into the crust from the beginning and figure prominently in many of the progressive victories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, like the civil rights movement.

Similarly, the romanticized appeal to tradition and family has its limits, especially when so many whites simply do not resonate with the message. In his article “Whexit and The New Class,” Spencer explains how suburban white professionals (SWiPs) were largely responsible in 2019 for the wave of Democratic victories in red states like Virginia and Louisiana because of class: they have altogether different goals and interests than their working class counterparts and are unable to identify with MAGA on a moral and practical level. It’s unlikely that these voters are just a red pill away from the renunciation of their values, especially when so many of them have only to withdraw from the inner city when confronted with the consequences of their voting patterns. “White flight” is less a flicker of racial consciousness in the minds of virtue signaling progressives and more the safe maintenance of their woke bourgeois lifestyles.

Leftists and third positionists blame this phenomenon on liberalism. The difference is that leftists want to replace liberalism with egalitarianism, and third positionists want to replace it with nationalism.

Critique of Third Position


Although the third position is interesting from a strategic standpoint, as it offers a space for left and right to collaborate, and it offers some valuable critiques of the dissident right, in practice it is a leftist social engineering project that seeks to impose rightwing values on society. Third positionists single out capitalism and corporatocracy as a big source of Western degeneracy and envision a post-liberal society in which the state has installed, as Woods puts it, “a real hierarchy,” where problematic billionaires like Jeff Bezos and George Soros are replaced with “decent, moral people.” In Woods’s view, nationalism is insufficient because it “just means we close the borders and we have an all-white state where I can be a selfish degenerate and pay no taxes and I spend my time doing what I want for myself.” It’s for this reason that he’s “for the state using its power, using taxes, using spending, [and] using monetary policy to produce certain outcomes.” Liberalism and capitalism have problems, to be sure, but the social engineering of a post-liberal state is not a worthwhile political goal if one’s core value is white well-being.

Substantive criticisms of liberalism (or conservatism) do not need help from the left. In his 2001 book Democracy: The God that Failed, Hans-Hermann Hoppe identifies many of the failings of liberalism with democracy. In a democracy, elected officials are no longer the nation’s owners, as was the case under monarchy, but its stewards. This temporary stewardship over the nation means less interest in its long-term prosperity and more immediate use of its resources in order to achieve near-term goals, hence ever-increasing budgets and expenditures. These temporary stewards are also more likely to be careless with their decisions because they can leave bad outcomes to future governments. On top of that, the very nature of democracy, i.e., that these officials are elected by popular vote, ensures that many of them enter their posts through their ability to cajole, self-promote, wheel-and-deal, and lie, not their ability to govern, ensuring that governments are increasingly negligent and corrupt. Hoppe writes:
[D]emocracy is seen as promoting an increase in the social rate of time preference (present-orientation) or the “infantilization” of society. It results in continually increased taxes, paper money and paper money inflation, an unending flood of legislation, and a steadily growing “public” debt. By the same token, democracy leads to lower savings, increased legal uncertainty, moral relativism, lawlessness, and crime. Further, democracy is a tool for wealth and income confiscation and redistribution. It involves the legislative “taking” of the property of some — the haves of something — and the “giving” of it to others — the have-nots of things. And since it is presumably something valuable that is being redistributed — of which the haves have too much and the have-nots too little — any such redistribution implies that the incentive to be of value or produce something valuable is systematically reduced. In other words, the proportion of not-so-good people and not-so-good personal traits, habits, and forms of conduct and appearance will increase, and life in society will become increasingly unpleasant. (2001, para. 15).
In this way, democracy is a precursor to liberalism and, in the end, socialism. In liberalism, there is some constraint imposed on governments through law and property rights that protects and promotes wealth accumulation, but the nature of democracy is such that, despite this, liberalism inevitably decays into socialism, as higher and higher taxes redistribute wealth, punish wealth creation, and reward nonproductive wealth consumption—the welfare state. It’s hard to imagine a single liberal democracy that has deviated from this trajectory. Canada, for example, moved steadily from classical liberalism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to the multicultural “just society” under Trudeau Sr. in the 60s and 70s, in which an aging liberal democracy enfranchised ever greater numbers of society, and in turn these voting blocs exercised their own power over the government to redistribute wealth back to their communities. In the end, democracy is the vehicle by which competing sectors of the public rob the private sector in order to pay themselves, whilst adding little of value to society. Incredulously, it’s despite this process that the West is so prosperous. But not for much longer.

Many of the problems leftists and third positionists therefore attribute to liberalism and capitalism—e.g., nihilism, degeneracy, corporate power—are in fact attributable to democracy (and, concomitantly, socialism), because of the reinforcement and multiplication over time of negative, decivilizing traits. For instance, as liberal democracies overburden private companies with regulations and squeeze them of wealth, they relocate elsewhere for fewer taxes and cheaper labour forces, putting people out of work and, in many cases, straight into the bosom of the welfare state, stoking disappointment and resentment. This deprives people of living satisfying lives through their talents and labours, and the nihilism generated from these displacements lends itself quite naturally to the pursuit of cheap thrills and self-destructive behaviours: drug abuse, prostitution, suicide, etc. Needless to say, leftist solutions to this, like Universal Basic Income, would only exacerbate the underlying problem.

The corporatocracy, where too-big-to-fail corporations cozy up to government, influence policy, and enrich themselves at taxpayer expense, is attributable to the receptiveness of government to such arrangements. The 2007-2008 recession, which has been mythologized in pop culture as consummate proof of corporate greed and malice, was largely the product of bad federal policies that incentivized financial institutions to make bad decisions, such as the risky mortgages given to low-income homebuyers. Without government intervention, financial institutions would not have made these risky decisions, nor would they have been bailed out by taxpayers if they had.


Businesses are always at the mercy of government intervention, so it’s natural that the more successful ones try to leverage their power and influence on government to negotiate better treatment, as through campaign donations. Some good can come from this: deregulation, tax cuts, land grants—in other words, those instances in which government gets out of the way. But some bad also comes from this: subsidies, tax breaks, backdoor deals—in other words, those instances in which government climbs in bed with corporations, creating corporatocracies and distorted versions of capitalism. Big Tech, for example, which is much vilified on the left and right for questionable business practices, working conditions, double standards, censorship, and privacy violations, has been artificially empowered by the government with enormous subsidies.

And it’s no wonder. These firms provide services that are instrumental to government ends: tracking and surveillance technology, information manipulation, censorship, etc., some of which have been explicitly solicited through government contracts. This is all very concerning to consumers and would stimulate competition under ordinary circumstances. But these companies are nestled in a web of other companies that all benefit from their dominance of the market and their relationship to government, so even when a challenger approaches, like Gab, it’s still at the mercy of hosting services and payment processors to conduct business, as when Gab was banned from Joyent and PayPal following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018. In an unregulated free market, these companies would not have made such a hasty decision, given the ease with which they, too, would be quickly challenged and brought to heel by competitors.

Free market capitalism, then, resolves many of the problems that leftists and third positionists attribute to liberal capitalism. Individuals and companies rise and fall according to their actions and the demands of the market, fair and open competition ensures that even the most biased companies are checked by competitors, and the protection of property rewards and multiplies excellence throughout society whilst disincentivizing and reducing negative and undesirable behaviours over time.

An objection of the third positionist here is the problem of individualism and shallow consumerism. Capitalism does materialize, quite literally, every whim and fancy of the consuming public, whether running shoes and Furbies or PlayStations and sex dolls. If one is concerned with group interests and the strengthening of one’s community, then one should find the preoccupation with these products wasteful and individualistic, and thus evidence of capitalism’s corrupting influence on social harmony. In a collective with all parts working toward the good of the whole, self-serving indulgences should be discouraged. Maybe in this case the state is necessary to set limits on what companies can or cannot produce or what consumers can or cannot purchase for the good of the nation.

But this problem is not resolvable through state action. Human beings are as compassionate, thoughtful, and resourceful as they are repugnant, violent, pleasure seeking animals. Consequently, even in times of strong economic and cultural pressures on discipline and moral character, people find ways to indulge in frivolous and hedonistic goods and services. The Libertines of seventeenth century England—a clique of self-important hedonists living in a far more censorious time—would smile approvingly on the modern porn industry. That’s not to say that they’re right. It is simply to point out that these impulses are permanent fixtures of humanity that some resist and others embrace. So much of human nature is the constant oscillation between the higher faculties and the base impulses, and much of culture and history can be understood this way: reason vs. romanticism, Apollonian vs. Dionysian, right vs left, etc. One always seems to follow the other. No society ever achieves total reason or total order or total chastity. No society could handle it. In the meanwhile, law, ethics, cultural codes, religious and scientific instruction, role modeling, etc., attempt to keep the worst of these impulses at bay.

The problem, then, is not capitalism, but the moral sentiments. Whatever guides one’s desires determines the outputs of the free market. When third positionists claim that capitalism is at odds with nationalism, what they really mean is that the moral sentiments are at odds with nationalism. Of course, this is true. The moral sentiments of SWiPs, woke CEOs, globalist world leaders, Hollywood celebrities, and football players are all anti-nationalist, and they make these sentiments explicit through business practices and speech acts, as in the case of feminist Gillette commercials or Colin Kaepernick’s socks.

But restraining the mechanism (capitalism) that facilitates the moral sentiments is an error. Malevolent though they may be, multiculturalism, feminism, positive discrimination, radical individualism, and so on are the values of scores and scores of people. Thus, if a heavy-handed rightwing state forced Gillette to make nationalist commercials, the state would be committing people to values they do not have, which would foster dissent and rebellion. Indeed, it’s no more than the ideological inverse of the present situation in which the right is reacting, quite rightly, to leftist institutional power. Putting more weight down on the other end of the teetertotter is hardly a real solution.

Similarly, even though some anti-white activists are uniquely wealthy and powerful, like George Soros, they cannot simply be “replaced.” People rise to the top of businesses and industries because they have the requisite talents. If states were free to replace their ideological enemies throughout society, it’s a certainty that they would choose less qualified people. This in turn disincentivizes innovation and productivity in the first place (e.g., “why would I rise to the top or take on an enormous amount of risk if I could just be replaced”? It’s not one’s willingness to hold nationalist sentiments that qualifies them for these positions). This is the system at the heart of so many communist regimes. How long, for example, until “ideological enemy” is whomever the state, or someone who offers the state a bribe, doesn’t like?

George Soros and other contemptible elites are empowered by states that are inherently receptive to lobbying, donations, and other financial arrangements. It’s states in turn that act on the interests of their donors and import the third world, redistribute wealth to the third world, and legislate diversity, inclusion, and equity policies. One way to reverse this and ensure that the state doesn’t corrupt is to curtail its powers and prohibit its involvement in the economy. If sinister businessmen cannot bend states to their will, whatever anti-nationalist actions they take will be far less effectual and far less rewarding.

It all boils down to this. Government, which is the source of so many problems when empowered in this way, cannot also be the solution to them. So many things that have driven people to the right in the first place—multiculturalism and forced integration, affirmative action and race-based discrimination, gynocentrism and gender “equality”—are born of the presumption that coercive state action in people’s lives can right past wrongs and negate the effects of nature, despite all contrary evidence; for example, the last sixty years of progressive doctrine. It does not work, regardless of the ideology operating behind the curtain. Nationalists might think very highly of values like meritocracy, order, and community, and they should. But to believe that they can be implemented through sheer political will is mistaken and concerning. It’s not because a corrupt, coercive socialist tyranny is nationalist that it’s worth pursuing as a political strategy. Advocating for white interests should entail good outcomes for whites. “To try do something which is inherently impossible,” Michael Oakeshott wrote, “is always a corrupting enterprise.”

Conclusion


A strong nationalist society can emerge organically in one that preserves liberty and economic freedom with minimal state presence. Simply consider what would happen if the redistributive actions of the past century were reversed in the United States. Single mothers once dependent on government assistance would have use of marriage again. Kids would return to relatively stable two-parent households. Separation along ethnic lines would be more pronounced. Personal responsibility and long-term planning would characterize success, reinvigorating respect for property rights and ownership, committing people through their own self-interest to their families, estates, and communities. Depoliticization and the absence of a safety net would reduce immigration. The cost of living would be lower, which could impress familial values on Spencer’s SWiPs (he draws on Steve Sailer’s “affordable family formation” theory to explain SWiP values). Not even one of these outcomes necessitates state force.

Is this the best strategy for regaining power in the West? Calling for an end to democracy and wealth redistribution? Probably not. Nevertheless, this is the position that would restore Western civilization. If it’s not a viable political strategy, it at least offers a standard by which to judge the third positionists and statists of the dissident right, whose beliefs and goals are self-defeating and shortsighted. Of course, their frustration with populist nationalism and Conservative Inc. is understandable, and although I disagree with their politics, I remain open to the possibility that their kind of agitation could lead to something unexpected

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